ANALYSIS: Ankara made wrong assessment regarding threat to Mosul consulate
Deniz Zeyrek* HÜRRİYET / ANKARA
In this still image posted on a militant Twitter account on June 12, 2014, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, a banner bearing a black flag used by the al-Qaida inspired lslamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) hangs from an overpass in Mosul. AP PhotoTurkey’s Mosul consulate was late to evacuate the building because Turkish authorities had reportedly been in constant contact with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants. Meanwhile, the delay in the release of the captured Turkish hostages arose from differences of opinion within the ISIL.
According to information provided by diplomatic sources and security experts, Mosul has been under the influence of ISIL for two weeks. However, the Turkish authorities were in contact with ISIL forces in the city and received the message that the Turkish consulate “would not face any threat.” However, ISIL militants coming from other cities started to enter Mosul over the weekend and exert their authority, and a first warning was sent to the Turkish consulate on June 9. Warnings were not only conveyed by sources close to Baghdad, but also by groups close to ISIL.
Northern Iraq and the cities of Mosul and Kirkuk are among the areas where Turkish intelligence is very active. This is why the suggestions that the intelligence services were not aware of the threat are unfounded. In fact, a large number of the relatives of the diplomatic staff left Mosul following developments over the last two weeks. Confidential documents were destroyed and all personnel and their relatives gathered at the consulate facility for a possible evacuation.
The decision on whether or not to evacuate was left down to Consul General Öztürk Yılmaz on June 11, a day before the raid. On the same day, ISIL, which had said before that it did not have any problem with the Turkish presence in the city, started to send negative messages. It was therefore seen by consular staff that there was no possibility left for a safe evacuation with support from Turkey.
ISIL was contacted shortly after the Turkish personnel and their relatives were taken hostage and transported to another area. The organization did not demand any ransom. There were no negotiations for a swap. The group that was holding the Turkish hostages said it could release them to trusted intermediaries within 24 hours, but the situation changed when ISIL commanders intervened and the release did not happen. According to sources, the ISIL militants had not been expecting the presence of so many people at the consulate.
Ankara is set to continue with “diplomatic means” and is not considering any possibility of an operation, and all names or groups that could potentially persuade ISIL to release the hostages have been contacted. A senior official said ISIL was being constructive thanks to “trusted intermediaries” and work was ongoing to retrieve the Turkish hostages without any military operation.
* Deniz Zeyrek is daily Hürriyet's Ankara bureau chief